>> Saturday, February 08, 2014
Ned Quartermaine is a man without scruples— until an unconventional lady brings him to his knees.
As heiress of Bellecombe Castle, Kate, Lady d’Allenay, is devoted to her estate, and never, ever reckless. But when an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe, Kate finds herself tempted. And with no hope of ever marrying, she sees little risk in surrendering to the heat of her houseguest’s wicked kisses.
When disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine turned his gifted mind to ruthlessness to survive. Before a riding accident cost him his memory, Ned was feared and vilified as proprietor of London’s most notorious gaming salon. Now, captivated by Kate’s grace and beauty as he struggles to find himself, he’s certain of only one thing: that he wants all Kate is offering—and more.
But when Edward’s memory returns, he and Kate suddenly realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion. A passion that could be her ruin—and just perhaps, his salvation.
I was really happy to hear that in her newest boook Liz Carlyle had left behind the paranormal elements that helped make her latest so lackluster (I hear JAK has done the same in her January release, and I'm just as happy about that).
In Love With a Wicked Man certainly started out well. Kate, Lady d'Allenay has a great deal of responsibilities. She runs the family estate (her title is a rare one that can be inherited by a woman, which she did after her elder brother died during a stupid, reckless bet), and it's taking strenous work to bring it back into the black. She also has a mother who behaves as if the family was rich and a very young sister who is determined to marry a respectable but poor man. Kate once assumed she'd have the life you'd expect of an aristocratic young girl (she was even engaged for a while), but with her brother's death, that all disappeared.
And then one day, feeling frustrated and angry at the people in her life, Kate impulsively jumps her horse over a hedge and runs into another rider. The man falls and hits his head on a rock, and when he comes to in Kate's house, he's lost his memory. All they can find out from what he's carrying is that his name is probably Edward and that he's definitely well-off, but anything else is a mystery.
Edward might have no idea who he is, but we readers do, from earlier scenes. He's Ned Quartermain, the rich and unscrupulous owner of the most successful gambling hell in London. Ned was born an aristocrat, but his father threw him out when he discovered he was another man's son. He was taken in and raised by that other man, and has grown up into a hard, cynical man who delights in holding power over his aristocratic patrons.
Initially, the book reminded me a lot of one my favourite books by Carlyle, My False Heart. That one didn't have an amnesia plot, but the basic outline of a jaded man tired of life being taken in by the heroine's household and being shown that he could be much happier than he is is quite similar, and works just as well here.
I'm not the biggest fan of amnesia plots, but I liked what Carlyle did with it here. The loss of memory is used as a way to show us and the hero himself what he might have been like without the influence of his horrible upbringing and the way he's treated by society, and thus, what he could still be if he wanted. We meet him at the start as a child and then as the "wicked man" of the title, although rather than "wicked", he's cynical and disillusioned. But when he loses his memory, this allows him to be someone who's a lot nicer, someone Kate can fall in love with. It gives him a bit of a blank slate, and then comes the moment when his memory comes back and he needs to reconcile who he was and who he might have been (and still be).
So the first half, when all this was going on, I really quite liked. The emphasis here is on Edward and Kate spending time together and getting to know each other, while Edward is recovering. There's definitely chemistry there, and a relationship I really liked.
But then Kate's mother arrives with her crazy entourage, Edward recovers his memory and things go sort of downhill. I was particularly annoyed by Aurélie, Kate's mother, who is the sort of character I hate. She plays games all the time with people's feelings, and somehow everyone, even Kate, who's the baroness, is powerless to tell her to stop it. And the narrative tells us that it's actually fine, because the results she gets are good. Ugh.
With all that, the book became a slog, something I didn't particularly relish picking up. It all felt like much ado about nothing for the last half, almost two thirds of the book. There was really no reason why Kate and Edward couldn’t get together, none at all. Edward's true identity really wasn't an obstacle to it, and Kate clearly didn't particularly mind it. I thought Carlyle might do something more with the manner of Kate's brother's death and Edward's involvement in gambling, but no.
And then closer to the end Carlyle clearly feels she must introduce some element of external peril into the mix, and comes up with a truly mediocre suspense subplot.
A shame to see a book that started out so well fizzling out so.
MY GRADE: A C.